Students begin a lifelong journey in sustainability at Bonython Primary

At Bonython Primary School, a key aspect of learning is focused on the natural world and sustainability, in what Deputy Principal Marc Warwick says is the start of a lifelong journey. 

“A couple of years ago we identified that waste management was a big challenge,” says Marc. 

So when the ACT Container Deposit Scheme (CDS) launched in June 2018, it came at a good time for the school, with the scheme quickly becoming part of the school’s sustainability and recycling approach.

“It was a way to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill,” says Marc. “We put it to a group of our Year 5 and 6 student leaders and co-created a way forward. Student leaders took on the responsibility of developing and implementing a strategy for collecting and returning eligible drink containers receiving 10 cents for each.”

The students worked out how to collect and store containers, and educated their peers about using the new container bins. There were challenges along the way including not all students initially using the dedicated bins. 

But, Marc says, problems were eventually solved with education, container bins in every learning space, and bins with lids to deter insects. 

Container returns have been incorporated into the classroom too. Marc says students have looked at how many containers have been returned, graphed the amount of waste saved from landfill and the amount of money raised through using ACT CDS. In addition students have visited the ACT Recycling Discovery Hub to learn more about the recycling process, with the site also hosting professional learning opportunities for Bonython staff. 

Funds raised through container refunds support school initiatives. “In the first year we made around $700, and we put that money into our Year 6 graduation activities,” says Marc.  

After that though, refunds from the ACT CDS have been used to support the school’s garden and sustainability work. Students learn about how things grow and how compost works. Garden produce has been used in cooking sessions with students, some of which has been supplied to the school canteen. Prior to COVID-19 restrictions, produce was harvested by students and sold at an onsite market stall to the school community. 

“Sustainability is an ongoing journey and education is key,” says Marc. “Students understand that recycling is the right thing to do and that their choices reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill. They’re starting to see that they can really make a difference, and as we value integrity, doing the right thing is important.

Find out how to get your school involved in the ACT CDS.

The ACT CDS is a partnership between the ACT Government, scheme coordinator Exchange for Change and network operator Return-It.